Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The future

What does the future hold for Arielle Metzger, one of the subjects of yesterday's story? I mean, she's obviously an intelligent and articulate young woman. What does the future hold for all these children, the 25 million children living in dire poverty, and the tens of millions who aren't far from it?

First things first: When you're living under conditions of such dire poverty, pretty much everything seems beyond your grasp. College looks like it might be a possibility in abstraction, but the reality is that a haphazard education caused by being homeless and moving from school to school makes scholarships problematic and grant and state subsidy programs have been gutted to the point where they'll no longer pay for poor children's college educations. Finding a way might happen, but it would be through heroic efforts and the chances... slim.

What other careers might she look at? My guess is that by this time next year she's going to be working as a waitress or as a clerk to make money to bring home to the family. She's going to do this because it's life, that's what you do, you do whatever it takes to get by, and it's what you can do if you're young and reasonably good looking and have no skills other than your ability to charm people. She's going to go to school tired and sleepy in the mornings, she's going to go to work a couple of hours after she gets out of school after studying that amount of time, and then go to sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Hopefully she won't get pregnant. But a lot of girls in her situation do get pregnant, because that would qualify the teenb and the child for AFDC, housing subsidies, and a lot of other assistance they don't get as homeless teenagers.

Could she have been the next great composer? The next great inventor? The physicist who finally solves the problem of nuclear fusion? A soccer star? One of the great actresses of the world? The biomedical doctor who finally finds a cure for the common cold? We'll never know, because ten years from now she'll be taking someone's order in a restaurant, her looks will have already started to fade from the years of poor food and lack of access to good medical care and information about exercise and keeping yourself fit, and that's going to be her life, forever.

That is the sad thing of all this refusal of America and Americans to collectively take care of our children: The waste. The utter waste. Arielle is not an idiot. With sufficient bootstraps, she could make something of herself far better than her current fate. What good for our nation have we thrown away, by this refusal to invest in our children? And what kind of a nation, what kind of people, is it, anyhow, that views a few dollars of tax money more important than children?

-- Badtux the Sad Penguin


  1. i personally know a young woman in this predicament. It's difficult to talk to her about checking out the Junior College when she's sixteen and has to hunt down a safe place to sleep every night. There's a train of teenage boys that follow her around because she's cute at the very least.

    Kids in these places need almost daily therapy and mentoring. They need a lot of forgiveness and love because they screw up. They need housing that isn't dependent upon them getting along with somebody else because frequently they are poorly socialized.

    I know a few women in their 20's who now have small children. They support each other but TANF will cut them off in a few years and there are no jobs. I've seen college graduates down at the one-stop benefit center applying for food stamps. What are these poorly educated girls supposed to do?

    This is getting very, very ugly. It has to stop.

  2. We can be a remarkably heartless nation. An acquaintance came back from a weekend getaway recently and complained about problems at the motel she and her husband had selected. It was one of the budget chains (e.g., Motel 6) and there was a multiple-generation family staying in the room next to theirs: middle-aged parents, 20-something daughter, and a couple toddlers. My acquaintance said the family was noisy, and "it was obvious they were living there, not just on a vacation." Instead of reacting with some vague twinge of empathy (i.e., "it must be hell being homeless and stuck living in a single motel room while hoping the Salvation Army vouchers don't run out") my acquaintance complained bitterly about her mini-vacation experience being ruined because she could hear the kids through the wall. The only thing missing from her rant was "are there no workhouses?"

  3. Pangolin, about the only halfway-good thing about the transition from AFDC to TANF is that it reduces the incentive to get pregnant, since the assistance will get cut off in a few years. On the other hand, if you're desperate for assistance *now*... well. A few years, maybe the horse will learn to sing.

    Nan, I get the impression that a lot of conservatives wish that the untermenschen die, but aren't willing to express that or act upon it because of the unpleasantness that occurred the last time someone dictated that the untermenschen die. Dachau and Treblinka for some reason didn't have the salutatory effect envisioned, indeed repulsed most people who were not part of the Nazi death cult. It must frustrate people who are part of the Republican death cult that they can't just start up Dachau West for all these unseemly untermenschen who assault refined Republican sensibilities with their very existence.

    Yeah, we are a sick society.

    - Badtux the Sickened Penguin

  4. The only problem with the "welfare makes women want to get pregnant and stay home" meme is that it's contradicted by the facts.

    The nations in Europe that have cradle-to-grave social welfare and universal healthcare are also the nations that have declining populations excluding immigration. So if a comfortable welfare system incentivized staying home and popping out babies how come the women aren't doing exactly that? Lots of women want to have lots of babies. At least until they have the first one.

  5. A big part of the problem is that people don't quite get what it means to be poor. Combine that with a tendency to assume that everyone faces the same challenges and an authoritarian morality and you get our current situation. I wish I knew how to convince people to support good social welfare programs and such.

    Facts dont matter if they paint a different picture than the one that fits in with their world view. You can talk all day about how if you send a poor kid to college instead of forcing them to live on the streets or work while in school, you greatly increase the chances that they will become a productive *tax paying* citizen who will pay back into the system many more times the amount they were given in aid. But people keep getting stuck on the idea that people are getting something for nothing.

    That is one of the great ironies about the tea party and their ilk. They go on and on about "fiscal responsibility" but a lot of the policies they demand actually end up costing the taxpayers more money in the end. But for whatever reason, they don't seem to mind spending money on prisons, additional police, security systems on their homes, etc.

  6. "The only problem with the "welfare makes women want to get pregnant and stay home" meme is that it's contradicted by the facts."

    Indeed but it plays so well to the thinly-veneered racist crowd transfused in the 80's by the "...lots of babies = Escalade in the drive and wide-screen TV in the LR of the tar paper shack" mantra.
    --Employed but only a paycheck away.

  7. I don't know how better one would describe this. It's actually sad in the sense parts of the video were. This is the level our country has sunk and is still sinking. At least that's the way I see it.

  8. Lynne, I have personal experience with relatives who became pregnant back during the days of AFDC because it would qualify them for welfare services. You point at the European example, but the Europeans do not restrict welfare services to women with children, they provide welfare services to single women as well. And no, AFDC never provided the sort of money that would result in a Cadillac and a big screen TV, when I lived in Texas the top AFDC amount was $297/month (per MONTH) for example, but if you're on the street going hungry from time to time... well, you do what you have to do. TANF changes that equation.

    But then, so would have going to the European model for provision of welfare services, which not only is less expensive but also results in less inequality -- according to all studies there is greater social mobility in all European democracies other than Britain than there is here in the United States.. But we can't do that, because that might result in some of those uppity untermenschen getting ahead, which cannot be allowed. Why, the nerve of those pesky untermenschen, wanting their children to be able to compete for the few good jobs available for our children! They should just go die, already!

    Or as it was often said in the South while I was growing up, "I might be poor white trash, but at least I'm not a nigger!" The homeless are the new nigger.

    - Badtux the "Official American greeting should be HEIL!" Penguin

  9. Badtux, I still remember the first words out of my professor's mouth way back when I took my first Economics class. He said, "incentives matter."

    So yes, AFDC gave some people enough of an incentive that some people chose to have children as a way to get out of a worse situation. TANF gives them less of an incentive. Giving someone who is poor adequate help even if they are single and childless of course completely removes the incentive to have children just for a living.

    If it were up to me, we would have some form of guaranteed minimum income that everyone would be eligible to receive, no questions asked. It would be an amount high enough to keep a roof over one's head, clothes on one's back, and food in one's belly and that's it. It would be an amount low enough that only the most lazy would choose to accept it rather than working. But we could all go to sleep at night knowing that everyone's basic needs are met.

    It also would be really good for business because those people who are really and truly lazy would self select themselves out of the labor market. ;)

    But I know that this will never happen because people just cant stand the thought that someone might choose not to work and would thus get something for nothing. They just can't stand the idea.

  10. I hope Arielle doesn't suffer too much when she finds out the reality of being an advocate for children (I mean a real advocate, not a shill for a state agency). I hope there are more children with her attitude and maturity. She is far superior to such as Bachmann and Coulter. Or Pelosi and Stabenow, for that matter.

  11. She's 14 years old, homeless, dressed in cast-off clothing from trash bins, and living in a delivery van with no air conditioning in summer and no heat in winter. About the only way you could make her suffer more is if you took her away from her father and put her into foster care, where given the reality of Florida's foster care system, there's a 50% chance she would be raped before age 18 and a 5% chance she would be dead or sold into child prostitution before age 18. Yes, Florida's foster care system really *is* that bad...

    Baffled by your comment, in other words. Just sayin'.

    - Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

  12. Do you ever get the idea that some group of Republican sociopaths meet in a hunting lodge somewhere and plot ways to make life so shitty for enough 16 year old girls that prostituting themselves to old nasty fuckers is actually an improvement?

    It costs $48K a year to keep a person in California's crowded prison system buy we allocate a small fraction of that for foster care. It's not hard to do the math and figure out that crime prevention is cheaper than prisons. So there has to be another reason for the disparity.

  13. How much of our prison system has been privatized? A lot. And those private company's running the prisons are making a fortune. A fortune they pay lobbyists to protect. Add to that a certain significant segment of our society who are ok with punishment but not ok with giving people anything for nothing (unless it is a kick in the pants or pepper spray to the face - those things are still free). We end up with a system where the people who are whining the loudest about their taxes are the same people who support policies that cost them more. They refuse to acknowledge it even to themselves though and all the facts in the world won't sway them.

    Our only hope is to convince more reasonable people that spending money on our nation's children and especially the most vulnerable children is beneficial to everyone. Also important is getting those people to vote.


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